A weekend in…
Five stunning Modernism complexes
With Gaudí as their most celebrated comrade, the Modernists gave Eixample its unique and enchanting character. The district’s most famous Modernism site is – of course – the Sagrada Familia, yet there are plenty more inspiring architectural gems to admire
At the turn of the 20th century, the rich industrial Eusebi Guëll asked the yet-tobe-discovered architect Antoni Gaudí to build him a lush garden district in the city’s suburbs. On his domain of 17.2 hectares, he wanted to build a fairytale-like, foresty garden with 40 houses. In the end, only two of them would get built: one for Guëll, and one for Gaudí himself. Stealing the show are, however, the mosaic bench, lizard sculpture and grand staircase. Since 1984, Park Guëll is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Park Güell, Carretera del Carmel 23. €10 (discounts available). Open daily from 8am to 8.30pm (5.30pm in winter).
JUST ANOTHER CITY CASTLE
Eixample counts so many Modernist gems that most people don’t even look up at them anymore. A palace worth lifting the gaze for, however, is Casa de les punxes (or, house of the spikes). Designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, this building clearly illustrates the versatility of the architect. Today, you can visit part of it, while the other half is occupied by offices, shops and a bank.
Casa de les punxes, Avinguda Diagonal 420. €13.50 (discounts available). Open daily from 10am to 7pm.
At Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s most expensive street, you’ll find some of the finest Modernist buildings in the world. Among the most famous is Casa Batlló, a colourful masterpiece by Gaudí which, according to rumours, represents Saint George (the patron saint of Catalonia) as he kills the dragon. The hubbly, colourful roof would be the dragon and the chimney the sword. What makes this building even nicer is its unity with the neighbouring Casa Amatller, a house designed by the aforementioned Josep Puig i Cadafalch (like Gaudí, an apprentice of Lluís Domènech i Montaner). Though not as famous as many other Modernist temples in the city, Casa Amatller has one of the most precious facades in town, with mesmerising yellow patterns and tiles.
Casa Batlló, Passeig de Gràcia 43. €25 (discounts available). Open daily from 9am to 9.30pm. Casa Amatller, Passeig de Gràcia 41. €16 (discounts available). Open daily from 10am to 6pm.
Rarely does an architect get total freedom from his beneficiary. Yet, when Gaudí designed Casa Milà, that was exactly what Pere Milà granted him. The industrial mogul had such confidence in the Modernist master that he gave him full financial and creative freedom. His only requirement was that the building would be unlike anything the world had ever seen. And that, Gaudí delivered! The façade of the building doesn’t count a single straight line, and instead of the Modernist staples of brick and glazed ceramics, Casa Milà is entirely constructed with dimension stone and iron, leading to the nickname La Pedrera, or the quarry. Inside, you’ll find a myriad of lush halls, and on the rooftop terrace, you’ll stumble upon a series of mighty, soldiershaped chimneys, gazing over the city.
Casa Milà, Passeig de Gràcia 92. €22 (discounts available). Open daily from 9am to 8.30pm (and to 6.30pm from November until February).
THE GUËLL EMPIRE
The collaboration between Eusebi Guëll and Antoni Gaudí surpassed the creation of just their garden of Eden. As a man with deep pockets, Guëll asked Gaudí to design many more buildings for him, each more impressive than the last. Right outside of Barcelona, you’ll find Colonia Guëll, an artificial neighbourhood for the employees of Guëll’s textile factory and their families. At the centre of this district stands an intriguing crypt with colourful windows, cheerful mosaic and a funky shape, all in Gaudí’s unmistakeable style. In fact, the architect went on to design an entire church for the colony, but the construction of it was never completed. As he left no plans of the building, just vague sketches of how it could have looked, Gaudí’s vision for this church will always remain a mystery. For even more Guëll glory, head to El Raval and visit the family’s mansion: Palau Guëll (see page 44).
Colonia Güell, Carrer Claudi Guëll 6 (Santa Coloma de Cervello). €8.50 (discounts available). Open daily from 10am to 7pm (5pm in winter) during the week and to 3pm on weekends.